Cavendish named BBC Sports Personality of the Year

2011 has ended on the highest of notes for cyclist Mark Cavendish.

Just two months after announcing he is to become a father for the first time, the 26-year-old has been named BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Accepting his award at the ceremony, the tearful sportsman dedicated it to his teammates and to his pregnant girlfriend, glamour model Peta Todd.

Cavendish, who was world race champion and winner of five stages at this year’s Tour de France, saw off competition from distance runner Mo Farah and golfer Darren Clarke to land the top prize at the glitzy BBC ceremony in Salford.

He had long been the odds on favourite to scoop Sports Personality of the Year 2011 following an extraordinary 12 months.

The Isle of Man rider achieved the two huge goals he set for himself in 2011, becoming the first Briton to win the green jersey in the Tour de France and then clinching gold in the road race at the World Championships.

In addition to dedicating the award to Miss Todd, Cavendish, who joins Tommy Simpson and Sir Chris Hoy as cycling’s winners of the award, said: ‘I’m absolutely speechless.

‘A few of my team-mates here will say that’s a rare thing. Without those guys this wouldn’t even be close to possible.

‘I had a group of guys in (the World Championships in) Copenhagen who rode incredible and that brought a rainbow jersey back to Britain after more than half a decade, and that’s a massive thing.’

Cavendish has established himself as one of the best sprinters in the history of cycling and this year took his tally of Tour de France stage wins to 20.

The award will be a personal triumph for Cavendish, who despite winning four stages of the Tour de France in 2008 and six in 2009, has yet to land one of the most prestigious prizes in British sport.

After winning four stages in 2008 he was not even nominated, and described the four seconds air time he got from host Sue Barker that year as ‘four daggers through my heart’.

But the cycling star was not to be denied in 2011 and scooped the prize ahead of Darren Clarke in second and Mo Farah in third.

Veteran Clarke was an emotional and surprise winner of the Open Championship this summer, five years after his wife Heather died of breast cancer.

Elsewhere at the glitzy award ceremony hosted by Gary Lineker and Sue Barker, Coach of the Year award went to England cricket team director Andy Flower, who guided England to a first Ashes win in Australia in more than 20 years.

The Zimbabwean, who beat Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and Wales rugby coach Warren Gatland to the award, said: ‘This is a very proud moment for me to stand here, England has been very good to me and my family.

‘I’m very proud to be part of the England cricket team. They have done some wonderful things over the last couple of years.

‘I think everyone in this room realises it’s the players that make the hard decisions, play under pressure and have to deliver. It’s great to have a good bunch of players and a good bunch of people to work with.’

England’s cricket achievements were also honoured with the Team of the Year award, which was collected by captain Andrew Strauss, also a nominee for the individual award.

He said: ‘This is a very special award for a couple of reasons. First there’s so many great teams who have won this in the past. ‘But also if there’s one thing we’ve all bought into it is the idea the team is more important that the individual. It’s the real basis of why we’ve done well and makes it even more special to win this accolade.’

Meanwhile, tennis world number one Novak Djokovic won the Overseas Sports Personality of the Year gong following a year in which he went 41 matches unbeaten and won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

Steve Redgrave, the former rower and arguably Britain’s greatest ever Olympian, was honoured with the lifetime achievement award.

Redgrave won his first gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, and unforgettably won his fifth in Sydney at the 2000 Olympics.

Golfer Lauren Taylor, 17, was named Young Sports Personality of the Year.